‘Hypnotic’: Ben Affleck’s sci-fi thriller builds to a slam-bang twist ending

William Fichtner and Alice Braga offer great supporting performances in an uneven but at times mesmerizing and dazzling mind-bender of a film.

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Ben Affleck plays a police detective whose hunt for his kidnapped daughter takes him into a world of mind control in “Hypnotic.”

Ketchup Entertainment

Arriving this weekend on Netflix: “The Mother,” with Jennifer Lopez playing an operative with a particular set of skills whose daughter is kidnapped.

Arriving this weekend in theaters: “Hypnotic,” with Ben Affleck playing an operative with a particular set of skills whose daughter is kidnapped.

It would be such a trip if the same actress played the daughter in both movies. Or if Lopez’s character crossed paths with Affleck’s guy in a diner while both were searching for their respective daughters.

But no such luck. These two films exist in separate cinematic universes, and while “The Mother” flies off the rails early and never regains its footing, “Hypnotic” is an uneven, at times mesmerizing and dazzling mind-bender of a psychological thriller that plays like a drive-in movie version of a Christopher Nolan film.



Ketchup Entertainment presents a film directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Rodriguez and Max Borenstein. Rated R (for violence). Running time: 93 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.

Veteran hyphenate Robert Rodriguez (“From Dusk til Dawn,” “Spy Kids,” “Sin City”) has delivered a stylish, gripping and cool sci-fi thriller, with Affleck turning in solid, low-key, brooding film-noir work and fine performances from an outstanding supporting cast led by the invaluable William Fichtner (“The Company You Keep”) and the always intriguing Alice Braga. This is a film that takes us through the rabbit hole on numerous occasions and keeps us guessing until a slam-bang twist ending that upends yet mostly justifies everything we’ve seen.

Let’s put it this way: Get your popcorn and your soda pop, and make your bathroom trip before the movie starts. If you miss even three minutes of this story, you might have to spend the rest of the movie playing catch-up.

Affleck plays Austin, Texas, Detective Danny Rourke, whose 7-year-old daughter Minnie was kidnapped on a playground when he looked away for just one split second. The perpetrator was apprehended, but he pleaded not guilty due to mental incapacity, says he doesn’t remember the crime and has no idea what happened to Minnie after he took her. This is the first of many indicators something is … askew in this world.

In an intricately staged and thrilling bank-heist sequence, a man known as Dellrayne (Fichtner) displays an unsettling ability to essentially pull a Jedi mind trick on anyone with whom he comes into contact — controlling their thoughts and prompting them to take illogical, in some cases violent action. (Fichtner expertly imbues Dellrayne with a cool and calm demeanor that makes him all the more menacing.)

Just when it appears Rourke has cornered Dellrayne on a rooftop, Dellrayne takes a flying leap — and seems to vanish into thin air. What in the name of “Inception” and “The Matrix” and “Vanilla Sky” and “Memento” and “Limitless” and “The Adjustment Bureau” is going on here?! We know Rourke is a deeply troubled and messed-up soul, which has us wondering whether his experiences can be trusted.

Rourke’s detective work takes him to the storefront psychic Diana Cruz (Braga), who explains that Dellrayne is what is known as a “hypnotic,” someone who can control the thoughts of others, convince them they’re seeing things that aren’t real and even command them to carry out acts of violence or self-harm.

Diana herself is a hypnotic, and she senses that Rourke has the unique and rare ability to actually block hypnotic commands — but she cautions Rourke not to come face to face with Dellrayne again because he won’t be able to keep Dellrayne out of his head.


The mysterious Dellrayne (William Fichtner) seems to have the ability to control others’ thoughts and actions.

Ketchup Entertainment

“Hypnotic” is filled with a number of memorable set pieces, as when Rourke takes a call from Dellrayne, who plants a seed in Rourke’s head about killing Diana, leading to a nail-biting sequence involving a pair of scissors that seem to have a mind of their own.

The more Rourke learns about Dellrayne and other hypnotics, the less certain he is about his own story, his own path. He knows he was married, and he knows he has a daughter, and he knows she was kidnapped. But how does he fight through the psychological mazes constructed by Dellrayne, if indeed Dellrayne is really the one pulling the strings?

If this sounds vague and more than a little confusing, welcome to the “Hypnotic” experience. We see everything through Rourke’s eyes, meaning we’re often as lost and confused as Rourke is — until the scales begin to fall, and it all makes sense.

Well. Most of it.

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